A Merry Christmas to you

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Finally we’ve arrived at Christmas Eve and it is time to take a look around and count my blessings.  I have 2 healthy daughters, one studying for her GCSE’s and the other who has just – today – passed her final exams to become an ambulance technician – very, very proud of her, and now that I know just what is involved in order to get this far ( not everyone does)  I have an even greater respect for those who work in the emergency services.

I am blessed with many other loving family members, my Dad is visiting tomorrow and my older sister is currently driving her way here and due to arrive shortly. I’m so excited about this as it’s been some years since we spent a Christmas together and I’ve cleaned, scrubbed, polished and sparkled everywhere !

I have a clean, warm home and cupboards with plenty of food for us all to share. When I recently took a survey to see how my income fared in comparison with other people in this country, I ranked in the lowest 18% in the country … and yet I feel that I am abundant with wealth.  I guess it’s a matter of perspective, I have enough for my needs, a little bit to save and why should I want more than that ?

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We have the delightful Tiny Harris living with us, she’s, fluffy, adorable and her help with gift wrapping and card writing has been immeasurable 😀

Our home is looking all festive and sparkly, warm and cosy and knowing that for the next 2 or 3 days my cherished family and I will be safe, fed and warm within is a great comfort. My thoughts are with those who are not so blessed.

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We’ve had warm sunny weather today and a beautiful sunset, it seems my Teen’s desire for snow at Christmas will not be fulfilled this year – can’t say that I’m too upset!

So, having delivered cards to some neighbours, shopped for those last few bits such as fresh veg and stuffing for the chicken ( no turkey in this house…) I went out to the garden to cut a few stems for the table.  The birds have had all the holly berries and that’s fine – they need them more than me – but each year I cut some of the beautiful viburnum which is not only simple and pretty, but scented as well which fills the home and that is our table centre piece. Nothing fancy or dramatic, just a simple decoration comprising a left over log piece from a project at work, some stems from the garden – popped in an old mustard jar and tied around with ribbon –  and some tea lights for warmth and light.

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Merry Christmas everyone, I hope yours is equally filled with love, peace and joy.

x Lula x

Happy 100th Grannette

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My beloved Gran would be 100 years old today.  Sadly, she passed on when she was 97 and until she got to about 96 I was convinced she’d make it 100. During that final year however, she became very frail and very tired so although I mourned her and still miss her she did have a long, healthy and happy life.

Always slim and stylish, she took care of herself and loved her family. She was unfailingly gracious and elegant, kind and such good fun.  I spent many happy summer holidays staying with her and my wonderful Gramps.  She taught me to skip, play badminton and monopoly and could complete any crossword, but was a stickler for abiding by the rules of scrabble – her dictionary never far away!

She was a wonderful cook, preserver and hostess. The daughter of a tailor and a talented dressmaker / seamstress, the only thing she didn’t manage to do was teach me to knit.  My aunt is compiling a family history and when we last visited I took some photos of Gran’s needlework books, from 1928 when she would have been 14, the samples are still in remarkable condition, loved and cherished by us all.

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There is so much joy in seeing these, particularly as my own Teen – now just 15 – is taking the modern day equivalent of needlework; ‘Textiles’.  She loves it and I know how enthusiastic and interested Gran would be to see the punk rock corset Teen is making from faux leather, tartan and chains !

I’m not sure she has quite the skills that were required back in 1914, but I love the thought of her work becoming a part of the family scrap books in the future.  I should probably learn to knit, just so that something of mine will be included !

I love this picture below, my Grandmother, Grandfather and Great Grandmother, all looking so very happy and full of joy and life.

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Never mind all the wealth and possessions that people strive to accumulate; none of that really matters if you have good health, enough to live on and people to love and who love you in return.  It makes me sad in some ways to see this photo and not be able to reach out and touch these people; that they can’t see the family line and lives continuing.  It feels strange that whilst I wasn’t there to see this happy moment in time when it was happening, that I never even met my Great Grandmother, yet I can look on her now with such affection. After all, if she hadn’t existed, then nor would I, or indeed my own children.

I’ll endeavour to emulate my lovely Grannette; her calm and cheerful outlook, her appreciation of everything, her kindness, sense of humour, loyalty and dignity.

xx

 

 

Getting away from it all

Yes, we’ve been on another little holiday; cheeky, I know ! The run up to it was a bit hectic and my mind was all over the place.  There was an impromptu meet up with a friend which was lovely, then there was some very sad news about a relative, there were also many extra hours worked mixed in with a lot of angst and anger about the workplace and the day before we went there was a trip to the school uniform shop, riding lessons followed by a family gathering in the afternoon.

So, the next morning was a good test for my capsule wardrobe packing skills.  I failed to get everything in the bag I’d originally wanted to take – largely due to my toiletries bag being an inconvenient shape and my not having thought about what I was going to take until the last minute – but it was another lesson learned and I just used the same mini case I used for our last holiday.

We were staying with some lovely relatives in Dorset who I’m very close to and extremely fond of. I spent a lot of time with my Aunt when I was a miserable Teen and its a testament to her character and forgiveness that she still enjoys seeing me now. She’s been researching our family and has started a wonderful scrap book full of photos and mementoes, information and anecdotss so I’ll be writing a post about that soon.

The temperature has cooled a lot since our holiday to Cornwall and as we strolled along the prom and observed the holiday makers, I was impressed by their determination to enjoy their beach holiday inspite of clouds, wind and rain.  Photo opportunities weren’t great due to the weather but this is the view from Swanage beach.

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We hastened our stroll as the clouds gathered and as the rain came down we took shelter in the wonderful Earthlights cafe and enjoyed the warmth and some delicious coffee.

We had a brief wander about the town but we were unable to locate the small duck pond where we’d taken my eldest daughter some 20 years ago.  It’s quite a pretty town but we were too busy dodging raindrops to stay long.

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In true British day tripper fashion we ate our sandwiches in the car as the rain came down and decided that our fortitude deserved rewarding with a cream tea.  We headed towards Wareham, stopping briefly so that I could take some pictures of Corfe Castle and the surrounding views from afar.

IMG_4831Corfe is a very pretty little place, but utterly rammed with traffic; people and vehicles.  I’ve been there before and its sad to see such quaint villages ruined by the roads that split through them, it didn’t make us want to stop for long and the clouds were looming again, so it was a quick photo of the old castle from the car I’m afraid.

IMG_4836We arrived in Wareham and having parked we wandered to the river and sat a while watching ducks and I remembered from those Angry Teen days that we’d sailed up the river one summer.  My aunt remembered that the Captain of our ship ( who’s identity will be protected here)  had got the Poole Bridge opening times wrong and we’d had to circle the harbour for hours, attired and hungry !  I’d actually forgotten that part, but it’s fun to remember those days and my Aunt is the only person left now who can share those memories.

Having spent some time gazing in shop windows, and sighing over gorgeous fabrics in a Daisy May’s, we settled at a table in the wonderful Reloved vintage cafe and shop.  We sat at table with wonderful polka dot coverings, odd chairs and surrounded by all sorts of pieces from years gone by; glass cabinets, strings of beads, clothes, china, record players … and a beautifully dressed and immaculately made up lady served us the most wonderful home made cream tea, enormous scones – fresh from the oven –  local cream and home made jam.  The tea was in a wonderful giant vintage tea pot – enough for two cups each and we had the daintiest china plates and cups and saucers. All mismatched of course.  It was wonderful and I heartily recommend it.

The next day we were taken to surprise location … imagine our delight when it turned out to be the Heavy Horse Farm and Sanctuary, a place close by and yet hidden in the hills and valleys just outside Verwood. Gorgeous location, the only sanctuary specifically for heavy horses such as Shires, Suffolk Punches and Percherons etc, the most awesome giant creatures.  They were beautiful and HUGE.

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Chess fell in love with pretty much all of them and was very taken with a lovely grey named Sultan who’d been bred for the French meat market – quelle horreur – I know many do eat horse meat and I eat beef, but I still can’t get my head round making a meal from these magnificent creatures.

There was a very busy tack room full of all kinds of saddles, bridles, stirrups etc from all over the world, flags and horse gas makes from the WWI, lanterns, collars, wheels and all other bits and pieces.  I just loved the tiny trap or cart hanging from the ceiling. I can imagine how much fun it would be to ride along country lanes in that.

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There was a lot of information about Romany Gypsies, where they originated from, how they used to live and how their way of life is being eroded and amalgamated into mainstream society.  We went in the huge showman’s trailer but sadly it was too dark to take pictures, they were beautifully equipped and by the time we’d seen some wonderful wagons, I’d decide that this was the life I want.  To wander the lands at a gentle pace, my tiny home being pulled along by strong gentle horses, mainly foraging and cooking outdoors and taking with me just a few essential possessions.

IMG_4841Yes, this life would suit me very well

IMG_4844There were other lovely creatures;  the pretty donkeys which my Aunt loves (they live a long life for sure, have wonderful ears a friendly temperament and have definitely mastered that eyeliner flick but I’m not sure they’d be any good at pulling wagons)

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The geese were very noisy, honking and too stress for my liking, but the duck was far more placid IMG_4865

The Kune Kune pigs were brilliant and although they did have the faintest whiff about them, their shape is great, front and rear view full of character.

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I would need an Alpaca to travel with me, not only are they incredibly cuddly looking, so warm and woolly – obviously; but their whole countenance is simply brilliant, I’ve never come across a creature with so much character and expression.

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It was a wonderful few days away and I came home full of enthusiasm and energy to make changes.  I’ve already made some simple ones around the home and as the minimalizing continues and with only a week left until I do the next seasonal clothes change, I admit that I’m absolutely dreading having to return to my workplace.

There, I’ve said it out loud: I loathe and despise it and I AM PLOTTING MY ESCAPE.

All I need is a wagon and a couple of horses …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrations

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I’m winding down from a fairly lazy weekend here. There’s been nothing more taxing than the regular household tasks, taking Youngest to her riding lesson and visiting Eldest and having dinner there so yay for that !

It’s been good to just pause and potter because we’ve had a lot going on of late and if you remember, I’m not used to all this socialising stuff !  Last week was a nieces birthday, the next day my sisters birthday and then the day after that my Papa’s birthday.  It’s a challenge to think of different ways to celebrate or things to do for him and he’d rather ‘do’ something than ‘have’ something.  We’re in agreement that anything we ‘want’ we can buy ourselves.

Last year I took him on a trip down the river at Windsor as his treat, but due to dire weather conditions, it happened a few weeks after the event.  I wanted to celebrate his day on the actual day this year, and it being Saturday, it was much easier.  I suggested taking him out for a meal and then going for a wander around Virginia Water lake.  I then thought of inviting my sister and niece along, to celebrate their birthdays too, word spread and next thing you know, we’re a party of 10 !  It was a lovely event though, the meal was great, the weather was appalling but Dad had thought ahead and we all went back to his house for tea and cake.

In the evening I was out for a meal with some friends and I’ll be honest, I struggled to eat my meal, inspite of having salad at lunchtime.  It was another great evening though and I got a chance to try out a new outfits out of my seasonal allowance.  That whole day was great for testing my wardrobe, as I wore 3 outfits in one day but I’ll elaborate on that in another post dedicated to clothes.

Monday was back to work and Tuesday was tense.  I’d been given a pre-sale code to get some tickets to see Kasabian in December.  I cannot even begin to express how much I wanted to get those tickets, having failed to secure any for their recent London gig and watched their Glastonbury set and reliving the joy of seeing them at last years Hard Rock Calling.

So at ten to 9 I was on the website, the code having been copied and just waiting to be pasted in ! I’d already recognised that we couldn’t attend the Saturday gig as it’s an over 18s only so my next goal was the Friday night.  I’d updated my password, set up new card details and then it was go, go, go … and finally a message appeared saying that I’d got my tickets.

I felt shaky all day, so excited and a bit jangly with relief and anticipation.

Then it was Thursday.  Not sure if I mentioned this before, but I LOVE Jack White.  I loved the White Stripes but never got to see them live so when the news that he was playing one gig in London I was frantically trying to get tickets.  I did manage to get some but at first it seemed they weren’t that great…

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There was drama about whether we could attend, the school threw a spanner in the works by announcing the launch of an event that HAD to be attended if people want to participate.  I admit that I sulked, I ranted and even cried at the unfairness of it. I tried to get a refund from the ticket seller on the grounds that the original gig date had been changed from Saturday to Thursday…

Thankfully, they refused and I will be forever grateful for that !  Sensing my distress, a very wise friend advised that I explain the situation to the teacher putting on the event and ask if I could possibly make alternative arrangements to gather all the information about the launch. I put every ounce of charm I could muster into a letter explaining the situation and bless her, the lovely teacher lady replied that of course it was fine for us to miss the event under the circumstances, and thanking me for such a lovely letter.

On the day I really wasn’t that excited at first, the shine had been taken off the whole event; Teen had sports day the following day and was running in two races,  I felt guilty that she’d be tired and not at her best. The travel was proving challenging too, it seemed as though everything was conspiring against me enjoying this.

Then Teen arrived home from school and announced that she couldn’t believe we were actually going. That changed the whole situation and as I was already changed and ready to go, she changed quickly and we marched down to the station, me already sweltering in the heat and my all-black jeans and top combo. Teen said she really wasn’t feeling it still.  The train took ages, the tube was rammed and initially we couldn’t find our way out of the station !  Then we emerged into the daylight and saw the venue just over the road.

We calmly went get some food and drink to sustain us, I don’t eat or drink when I’m excited, but I knew Chess was hungry and certainly wouldn’t last the night without food.  So we ate, we drank and slowly I could see her becoming more animated and then as we joined the very long but fast moving queue I could see she was excited.

We headed to the top of the circle and staked out our spot for the evening, glad that we’d got there early and crossing our fingers that no really tall people would come and stand in front.  As the place filled up the ( in my opinion, not so) Amazing Snakeheads came on stage and did what they had to do.  The drums and guitar were fine, but the ‘vocals’ didn’t appeal at all.  As far as I could make out it was a full on shouty screamy rant about hating just about everything.  One semi-naked very angry young man who should really calm down a bit.  Or shut up.

Admittedly it must be tough when you’re the support for someone as unique and diverse as Jack White, but really, it was just dire and as they left the stage thousands of eyeballs rolled in relief and a few polite people applauded their thanks. For them leaving probably.

If I hadn’t loved him already, I would have fallen as soon as we were reminded  that the concert wasn’t the size of a 3 inch screen, but the size of the venue and if people wanted to watch on their screen then perhaps they shouldn’t have bought tickets for the live show, but just watched it on youtube instead.  I have a deep and intense loathing for people who attend concerts or any live event with one arm in the air holding their damn phones up to record it.  Grrrr. It makes my blood boil.

The last time I attended a gig at that venue was when it was called The Hammersmith Odeon and I’d gone to see The Cult.  There was no phoneteference back then … although I remember the sound system wasn’t that great either !

Anyway people, just watch, listen, feel and just damn well enjoy the live experience for fecks sake.  Or stay the feck at home with your tv so someone else who will appreciate it can have your ticket.

I applauded that ‘put your phones away’ speech loudly, and the man in front of me quietly slid his phone back into his pocket.

Finally,  the master magician of music himself appeared on stage and for an hour and half we were mesmerised and swept up in the whirlwind of sound and spectacle. It surpassed my wildest dreams; the sound was incredible, and our view was fantastic. It was unbelievably hot and the music swirled, surrounded and entranced us, we danced and sang along.  There was minimum chat, and I liked that too. I don’t go to a gig to hear a life story or the reason that each song was written, I go to hear and watch it being performed, and perform he and his band did.

I read 3 reviews the next day and they may have been more eloquent than me, but the praise and reverence  comes from the same place.

It was over all too soon but as we made our way home with hearts pumping and ears ringing I knew we’d experienced something so special and unique that we may never feel again.  It was an absolute privilege to have been part of that small audience and I will drink from that memory for a very long time.

Thank you !

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And so it ends

This is the last couple of hours of day 11 and wow have those 11 days whizzed by.  I’m happy though; I feel rested, relaxed, refreshed and restored.  My finances however, are in need of replenishment and my body in need of reduction (again) so it’s for the best that I return to work tomorrow.  It’s just a 3 day week so I’ll ease myself back in and today I worked out that due to Bank Holidays and the half term break I’ve booked off in May, I’ll only be at work for 13 days next month.  I know :

 

Anyway … the last few days have been lovely.  Friday was a family road trip to the land of the Moonrakers ( that’s Wiltshire for those who don’t know what on earth I’m talking about) where I spent the first four years of my life and one of my aunts still lives.

It was a thoroughly appalling journey there, taking over twice as long as it should and no, for once I didn’t make any wrong turns, it just seems that for some bizarre reason, every single person south of London decided to travel down the M4 that day.  We arrived eventually and I’d forgotten just how much I love where my aunt lives.  She has a top floor apartment in this lovely old house, named after the family who owned the country park in which it stands.

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It has a front door the size of my bathroom and the entrance hall is huge, a giant mirror hovers over a secret box which I am just dying to peek inside and with a lovely sweeping staircase which gently curls up the centre of the house to the second floor.  It’s all sash windows, cornices, chandeliers and curves and I absolutely love it.

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The proportions of each room are beautiful and the sitting room has not one, not two, not three, not even four but 5 window seats. FIVE, imagine that, and all with lovely sash windows so that you get a fantastic circulation of fresh air and you can’t help but feel all Elizabeth Bennett as you sit and gaze over the countryside, half expecting a horse-drawn carriage to sweep in along the gravel driveway.

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The views are stunning; on one side they look over the mini golf course and across the meadows to the river Avon

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 the front of the house looks over towards the town and I would just love this view from my  kitchen window :

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The town is accessible by a short walk across the park and over the bridge, and after a leisurely and delicious lunch we all set out for a meander around the edge of the meadow along the river, soaking up the sun and catching up on family news before heading back for Earl Grey and a cream tea with the best scones in the world ever, made by my other aunt who I am holding entirely responsible for my having gained 4 lbs !

Thankfully, the journey home was quick and after a restorative cup of tea we sank on to the sofa until bed time.

Saturday was the usual riding lesson followed by my shift in the library, whereby I saw at least another 5 books I want to read… and yet forgot to return the ones I haven’t yet got around to reading.  I’ve joined a local book group so I really need to get myself organised, having bothered to find the right book in the library, it would be a shame to not get around to actually reading it while having to pay the overdue fines.

Sunday dawned and we headed up to the yard to help muck out and groom our horsey friends.  Chess and Helen went for a hack around the hill while I tidied up the beds and then exercised Whisp by running around the paddock with a carrot in my hand for him to chase!

This morning I was awake before 5 and can only think that my enthusiasm to practice getting up early for work was a bit previous.  Still, it was lovely and peaceful, I had a good ponder about various things, then got up and tackled every single piece of filing and paperwork that I’ve ignored all week, replied to emails worked on a budget for next month before moving on the ironing pile and finally I made a giant lasagne which will probably last all week.

So I’m away to bed now, thank you for joining me on my eleven luscious days off work and I hope you’ve enjoyed your long weekend.

x Lula x

Simple pleasures

 

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A lovely friend sent this to me – how perfect is that !  I shall do my very utmost to live by this mantra, always.

I had a lovely day yesterday; some planned and some unexpected, but simple and full of joy.  Determined to actually do something pleasurable rather than dutiful, I was up at the usual time, did the essential laundry, sparkled the bathroom and then minioned and mopped the floors.  Not exciting, but it hushes p the duty part of my brain for a while.

I put my face and a frock on and as I was making a list of things I needed to buy my eldest girl called for a chat. I said that I was heading in to town and suggested she meet me so we could have lunch and the day to ourselves.  I rarely spend time with her alone so I was delighted when she agreed.  I set off and got the dull bits of shopping done, face serum, hair colour, tights, new lippie just for fun and then made my way to the big indoor bizarre bazaar that is tk maxx.

I love that place; full of the most eclectic collection of things that you never knew you simply had to have until you found them.  I was actually looking for a tall narrow ‘something’ –  picture, vase, sculpture, candlestick – to take up a very specific space.  I wasn’t sure what exactly I needed, but had faith that I would know when I found it.  Which I didn’t, sadly. But I did find my eldest in there, along with some new socks and a pretty new tea cup, all for just £18.

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I’m quite particular about my tea receptacle. I can’t be drinking from a thick chunky mug, it has to be fine china otherwise the tea just doesn’t taste quite right.  I quite like coffee in a chunky mug, but definitely not tea.  Youngest is exasperated by my slightly obsession with pretty cups, I don’t have any pairs that match, they’re all individuals; different shapes and sizes and I always let favoured visitors choose their own.  I really must get a peg rack to hang them all on, they give me so pleasure when I see them all.  Youngest will never let me buy new ones when she’s with me, she always reels off the quantity we already have, completely failing to see the point of having a new one.  Eldest on the other hand doesn’t mind at all ( perhaps because she doesn’t have to live with me… and all the cups) and simply said “it’s very you”. Permission to puchase granted !

We had lunch; toasted paninis, coffee, hot chocolate and cakes ( all thoughts of it being meant to be a ‘fast day’ completely forgotten) and then wandered towards the new WWF building.  It has a revolving door at the entrance – love those !  And some brilliantly shaped wooden structures, portraying land, mammals, sea creatures, wildlife etc  that you go in and have interactive displays and information panels within.  We spent quite a bit of time doing quizzes and soaking up the shapes and textures.

IMG_3317  I love how there were adult sized doorways and smaller ones to be crawled through by children and the unselfconscious.  I’m in the latter camp, but had a slightly disapproving and dignified daughter with me, so went through the adult entrance instead.

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IMG_3320  Very tactile, looked like very thin layers of plywood glued together and created such a wonderful feeling when you’re in the centre of them.

Once we’d finished playing in there, we spent an hour or so in the Lightbox, eldest has never been so she was fascinated by the local history exhibits.  I restrained myself from buying anything and we then headed home so that I could try out my  latest addition to the tea cup family which I declare it to be perfect.

I have now finished my recently discovered perfect breakfast of caramel coffee and a chocolate Lindor egg so should probably prepare myself for a lovely afternoon of good company, chat and tea whilst surrounded by books at the local library.

Simple pleasures

x Lula x